For immediate release
July 18, 2005
Nhia Vang, NPR: | 202.513.2324
Chad Campbell, NPR: | 202.513.2304

Iranian-Born Novelist and Professor Azar Nafisi's Personal Essay on This I Believe, the NPR Series Exploring Values

Nafisi's Essay Explores the Power of Empathy on Morning Edition on July 18

Nafisi Joins Colin Powell, Director Errol Morris and John Updike Among Contributors to Series

WASHINGTON - This I Believe, the NPR® weekly series of personal essays about core values and beliefs - a contemporary version of Edward R. Murrow's landmark 1950s project - will feature novelist Azar Nafisi's belief in the power of empathy to unite people and nations.

Nafisi is author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which explores her experiences as a woman living and teaching under the Islamic Republic regime. She continues to write about her experiences in her This I Believe essay. Nafisi says, "This experience in my life reinforces my belief in the mysterious connections that link individuals to each other despite their vast differences. No amount of political correctness can make us empathize with a child left orphaned in Darfur or a woman taken to a football stadium in Kabul and shot to death because she is improperly dressed." She adds, "It is only through empathy that the terror and pain experienced by an Algerian woman, a North Korean dissident, a Rwandan child or an Iraqi prisoner becomes real to us."

Before coming to the United States, Nafisi was an English literature professor at the University of Tehran, until she was expelled in 1981 for not wearing the mandatory Islamic veil. She resumed her teaching in 1987, but quit in 1995 because she found authorities were strictly scrutinizing her teaching. Since coming to the United States, Nafisi has published a novel and resumed teaching at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., where she is a professor of aesthetics, culture and literature.

Nafisi joins an impressive list of essayists who have contributed to the series since it made its premiere April 4; participants have included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris, authors John Updike and Isabel Allende, psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison and scientist Brian Greene. This I Believe also features the work of NPR listeners from around the country who have responded with essays on a variety of subjects.

During its original run in the 1950s, Murrow's This I Believe launched a national dialogue about core values and beliefs. The contemporary version covers a broad spectrum of topics such as compassion, faith, love, the power of change, the importance of knowledge, the value of family and tolerance. The essays range from poignant to humorous, and provide unique insight into what Americans believe in the 21st century. This I Believe essay writing has already been incorporated into the activities of schools, community groups, places of worship and even birthday celebrations. This I Believe essays have been read or played at weddings and funerals. Additionally, blogs have featured the concept among groups as diverse as college students, senior citizens and people affiliated with various religious and political associations. The segments air every Monday, alternating between NPR's signature newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered®.

To date, This I Believe essays have ranked among the top e-mailed stories on To find your local Morning Edition station, please visit To listen to past essays or to submit an essay, please visit

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